The Challenger Customer: Chapter 10, section 1 (part 8 of 10)

Chapter 10: Shifting to a Challenger Commercial Model: Implications and Implementation Lessons

There are a handful of implications that our research has highlighted as particularly tricky to navigate.

Implication #1 – Demand Generation: Most marketing teams aim their demand generation efforts at developing leads that are “ready to buy.” … While this approach delivers a ready-made customer to the sales team, it fails to do so on yourterms.

Implication #2 – Marketing Talent: Most marketing teams are disproportionately focusing their skill building in the digital space. … There are a lot of skills related to the consensus purchase that are being overlooked. These skills are the ones that drive a marketer’s ability to create and deploy Commercial Insight.

Implication #3 – Social Selling: Sales reps out to be using social media tools to engage customers, we observe many social selling efforts that amount to little more than broadcasting (or perhaps more accurately, noise). … We’ll explore how marketing and sales need to collaborate to deliver social teaching, not social selling.

Implication #4 – Managing Blockers: the prevailing thought for managing Blockers is to ignore them. Rarely do sales methods teach approaches for Blocker management. … We’ll explore several methods for actively managing Blockers in this section.

Implication #5 – Sales Process and Opportunity Planning: Much of the commoditization pressure suppliers face today isn’t the result of customers’ willingness to settle for “good enough,” it’s their failure to agree on anything more. Today’s sales process must better reflect how sellers can enable the right customer purchase behaviors, rather than march a deal forward through the supplier’s sales stages. Similarly, opportunity planning follows the same logic.

Implication #1: Demand Generation

Conventional Wisdom might lead marketers astray. There are three main failure points.

  1. Conventional wisdom leads us down a path of creating ever more content, and content quality quickly trumps content quality. Coupled with the drive to generate leads and outbound marketing efforts, marketers risk turning off customers who are already bombarded with supplier messages.
  2. Conventional wisdom is mum on the absolute criticality of upending how customers think of their own business, thereby changing the customer’s direction when they are learning on their own. That means marketers will generate demand that commoditizes their own solution.
  3. Conventional wisdom is about better connecting individuals in a buying group to you as a supplier, not about connecting them to each other. So marketers will fail to lay the groundwork for the early consensus that needs to happen about the problem and the solution (forget about the supplier!)

Don’t generate demand, Mobilize demand:

  1. Create Content Paths that Confront and Connect
  2. Adjust Lead-Scoring Criteria to Reflect Confrontation and Connection
  3. Nurture Leads Explicitly for Commercial Insight and Collective Learning

Implication #2: Marketing Talent

Here’s the key takeaway: Commercial Insight skills and knowledge are in short supply. Moreover, it takes a special blendof those skills and knowledge, put into the right operating environment, to successfully build and deploy Commercial Insight. In other words, this can’t be left to chance or to heroism on the marketing team. Marketing leaders need to step in to engineer the right kinds of working teams, and create a particular kind of environment that nurtures Commercial Insight creation.

Implication #3: Social Selling

The single most powerful behavior separating high performers from core performers is using social media as a critical channel to engage customers and generate leads. … What exactly does it mean to use social media in the context of getting in early? Well, when you unpack the data, it comes down to three things:

  1. Connecting with potential customers
  2. Using social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter to share points of view valuable to customers
  3. Using social media for lead generation

When we talked to a number of sales reps having huge success with this approach, what we found is this all adds up to positioning oneself as a key influencer within social networks.

To do that, we found the best reps work very hard to tap into a large social network, extending far beyond personal contacts and current customers. These reps are accessing the entire ecosystem of the marketplace that that rep sells into. So not just existing customers, but potential customers. Even people who might never be your customer but could potentially buy your product in another territory, through a different channel, or through another supplier altogether.

But that’s just the beginning. Then there are channel partners, industry experts, market influencers, complementary suppliers, influencers from similar or adjacent industries – you name it. Basically, it’s anyone and everyone who might be interested in engaging in a conversation around the broadest set of issues your products and services potentially touch.

So the best reps find the “watering holes” or those online communities where people in their industry gather and learn. In advanced cases, the very best reps will serve as teaching connectors– serving as a hub, bringing this group of people together in order to engage in a learning conversation around a common interest. Done well, sales reps who play this role as teaching connector are much more likely to attract Mobilizers into their orbit.

Now, there are clearly ways that rep use of social medial can go wrong. The best reps who are involved in social media are very careful how they use it. The last thing star performers would do with this powerful network they’ve tapped into is to use it to broadcast messages with no interaction or teaching – in other words, using it purely as an advertising channel. Yet we see far too much of social selling happening in exactly this way.

That’s not what this channel is for. Rather, it’s about actively engaging in a productive, interesting conversation. Ideally, conversation that teaches. It fits right into the Spark-Introduce-Confront model from chapter 6. Social watering holes are the idea place to spark a target audience into exploring your ideas by sharing surprising data, insights, and provocative viewpoints. Because Commercial Insights are by definition not about you as a supplier but about customers, they are much less likely to be rejected on the grounds of being commercially slanted.

“You’ve got to weave yourself into the knowledge fabricwhere your customers learn. But you’ve got to earnthat right. You’ve got to help the customer think differently than they would have otherwise.”

We view this kind of social enablement as a critical part of the larger commercial strategy to teach Mobilizers and disrupt their mental models early, ideally when they are passively learning, but certainly before the 57 percent point when they are picking up the phone to talk to a sales rep. Teach where and when customers learn.